There is July Flame, the peach, which was spotted by Laura Veirs on a summer visit to the farmers' market. "I just saw it at the market and I was like, 'Oh, that's a cool name for a peach, I'll write a song about that,'" Veirs explains. And she did. Although the former Seattleite and current proud Portlander has yet to embark on her follow-up endeavor: "I could do peach orchard tours, that'd be really nice."
Then there is July Flame, the record. It is, in no uncertain terms, Veirs' best work—a recording that travels effortlessly on the groundwork laid out by her six previous albums. There is a natural ease throughout, a genuine sense of warmth that radiates from the ghostly voices of opener "I Can See Your Tracks," and continues through the sparse piano keys of closing number (and self-fulfilling prophecy) "Make Something Good."
July Flame's cordial nature began in its infancy, while Veirs and partner Tucker Martine were setting up shop in their NE Portland home. Martine has a proven track record of inviting artists into the couple's home (the Decemberists, Bill Frisell, and even R.E.M. sing his praises)— but this recording session was different. "Tucker doesn't do a lot of recording in the house, but he does a lot of mixing," Veirs explains. "There are bands tromping through the basement a lot, but not necessarily in our living space, which is good."
It was in this space—the living room, to be exact—that Veirs and Martine began work on July Flame, the inaugural release on her new Raven Marching Band label. "We've made six records together and this is the first that we've made as a couple at our house," Veirs explains, discussing the high-wire act of working with her music and life partner within the walls they share. "We had the windows blocked off with blankets... it was like a little cave in the winter. We have curtains so [the neighbors] saw our curtains closed for months and were probably like, 'I don't know why those guys never open their curtains.'" The sheer level of intimacy involved in the recording can be felt on the soft echo of the title track, the campfire strum of "Life Is Good Blues," and "Carol Kaye," Veirs' soulful tribute to the iconic yet underappreciated studio musician.
Veirs' deeply sincere homespun tales are the centerpiece of July Flame, but grand as these songs might be—and they truly are grand—Veirs has a loyal surrounding cast. In addition to Martine behind the scenes, and a glowing endorsement perfect for a shrink-wrap sticker from Colin Meloy, Jim James from My Morning Jacket lends his voice throughout the recording. When July Flame takes shape onstage, Veirs is flanked by a talented backing band, featuring K Records artist Karl Blau, Keeley Boyle and Nelson Kempf of the Old Believers, plus various other local musicians all lending a hand. Veirs might need the help too, seeing how her upcoming tour schedule rolls well into her eighth month of pregnancy (a feat that will forever discount any whining from musicians who dare complain about touring while not bearing child).
After the baby is born, Veirs is content with the idea of touring as a mom. "I'll tour with the kid," she says, before adding, "It's not the easiest thing, but I don't usually sign up for the easiest thing."